- Middle East/North Africa
The statement from Al-Azhar senior scholars on verbal divorce came after a in-depth study, said advisor to the grand imam Mohamed Abdel Salam. He denied any disagreement or clash between Al-Azhar and the presidency over the matter.
Abdel Salam added in a statement on Facebook: "Meetings over the past few days comprised scientifically profound debates among senior Egyptian scholars of different Islamic schools and jurisprudence regarding the issue of [verbal divorce]".
Scholars, headed by Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb, unanimously agreed that verbal divorce in Islam is valid and divorce comes into effect once the husband verbally divorces his wife, without need to document it or have witnesses to the divorce, Abdel Salam said.
He accused the media of attempting to draw a rift between the president and Al-Azhar through incorrect interpretations of the former's statements.
He also accused some media outlets of truncating parts of Al-Azhar scholars' statement on verbal divorce, thus harming the overall meaning.
In a statement, the Council of Senior Scholars, the top body of Al-Azhar Institution, said this is what Muslims settled upon since the time of Prophet Mohamed if it meets the set conditions of divorce in Islam.
The decision comes against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's call for restrictions against verbal divorce and for a new law tightening divorce procedures for Muslims last month. He directed this request to al-Tayyeb in a speech at a ceremony marking National Police Day.
In clarifying its position, the council called upon the man who divorces his wife to document this divorce once it happens, in order to preserve the rights of the woman and the children.
The council also said, however, that the government has the right to take the necessary steps to enact legislation to ensure the imposition of deterrent punishment against those who abstain from documenting the divorce or are remiss in it.
The statement said the phenomenon of increasing divorce cases cannot be wiped out by conditioning the documenting or authentication, because the husband who belittles divorce will not be dissuaded by any conditions requiring him to stand before a Ma'azoun (public notary, marriage official) for divorce to take place.
The statement read: "the correct treatment for this phenomenon is through the care of young people and their protection from all kinds of drugs, and in educating them through different media, art, culture and general knowledge."
Egyptian law currently grants a Muslim husband the right to divorce his wife in her absence and without her knowledge. He may initiate and conclude all the legal procedures himself, only informing her of the divorce at the final stage.
The divorce percentage is high: 40 percent of the 900,000 marriages unions registered every year end in divorce within five years, Sisi said in the National Police Day speech.
Egypt saw about 200,000 divorce cases during 2015, which marks a 10.8 per cent increase in divorces from the previous year, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said last year.
The total number of divorces in 2015 reached 199,867 in comparison with 180,244 cases in 2014, CAPMAS said in its annual report on marriages and divorces.
The rate reached 2.2 cases per 1,000 people in 2015, which represents an 83 percent rise compared to the beginning of the period 1996-2015, according to CAPMAS. The agency said that the figure for 2015 represents the highest divorce rate recorded in over two decades.